Fund the community schoolyards project

Prevention, Early Intervention, & Youth
social determinants of health
Environmental Justice
Black/African American
Coverage & Standards
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Federal department
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house committees
House Natural Resources Committee
House Appropriations Committee
senate committees
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Senate Appropriations Committee


Congress should establish federal funding for the Community Schoolyards project through the National Park Service’s (NPS) Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) to renovate asphalt schoolyards into schoolyard parks by providing grants to school districts, city parks, and water departments to fund renovations with oversight from federal agencies.


The Community Schoolyards project is an initiative that aims to transform asphalt schoolyards into green spaces that can serve as public parks and outdoor recreation areas for urban communities. The project is based on the idea that schoolyards are a valuable but underutilized resource that can benefit students, families, and neighbors, such as improving health, education, equity, and climate resilience.[1]

According to Trust for Public Land, parks are essential for healthy, equitable communities, but across America, 100 million people - including 28 million children, do not have a park close to home. This means they miss out on the physical, mental, and social benefits of spending time in nature. In our biggest cities, communities of color have access to 44 percent less park space than majority white communities.[2] This creates environmental injustices and health disparities that affect people’s quality of life and well-being. Nationwide, 36 percent of public school students attend school in heat islands, which negatively impacts cognitive development and can cause heat stress in children.[2] A growing body of research also connects extreme heat – which is even worse in urban heat islands – to increases in attempted and completed suicides, depression, substance use, and hospitalizations for mental health conditions.[3]

Gaps in park access and the effects of urban heat islands can be addressed by turning existing public schoolyards into vibrant, shared outdoor spaces that benefit the entire community. American public schools own a combined two million acres of land with much of it remaining closed to the public outside of school hours. If every public schoolyard in the U.S. functioned as a shared outdoor space, 20 million more people, including over 5 million children, would have access to a park within a 10-minute walk of home.[2] This would significantly improve the quality of life and well-being of millions of Americans, especially those who live in underserved communities.Green schoolyards can provide multiple benefits for students and communities, such as improving physical and mental health, enhancing academic performance and attendance, increasing prosocial behavior, reducing crime and violence, and mitigating urban heat islands and stormwater runoff.[2][4] Access to green spaces in childhood has also been shown to protect against the development of many mental health disorders in adolescence and adulthood. One of the most significant benefits is psychological restoration, which can help prevent stress-related issues, depression, and mood disorders.[5]The ORLP grant program is a nationally competitive program funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The program targets grant assistance to urban areas with little or no access to publicly available outdoor recreation spaces.[6] The program is administered by the NPS and is an ideal mechanism for codifying the Community Schoolyards initiative at the federal level. The program aligns with the goals and objectives of the initiative by prioritizing projects that create new or reinvigorate parks in economically disadvantaged areas.


1. Trust for Public Land. Transforming Schoolyards. Last Accessed August 14, 2023.

2. Trust for Public Land. Community Schoolyards Projects. Last Accessed August 14, 2023.

3. American Psychiatric Association. Extreme Heat Can Take a Toll on Mental Health. Last Updated July 20, 2023.

4. Bates, Carolyn R., Amy M. Bohnert, and Dana E. Gerstein. 2018. “Green Schoolyards in Low-Income Urban Neighborhoods: Natural Spaces for Positive Youth Development Outcomes.” Frontiers. Psychol. 9:805. Last Updated May 25, 2018.

5. Rocchio, Laura, Landsat Science Outreach Team, and Mike Carlowicz. “Green Space is Good for Mental Health.” NASA Earth Observatory. Last Accessed August 14, 2023.

6. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Grants Program. Last Accessed August 14, 2023.